Wanting to "lead by example," State Senator Grover Campbell announced today that he would file legislation proposing two reforms to the Oklahoma election laws.
"Basically, this proposed legislation would bar state election officials from reporting any presidential election returns until 9:30 p.m. Central Daylight Time. Secondly, no pollsters would be allowed to conduct exit polls within a certain distance of a polling location. More than likely that would be the same distance as campaign signs and campaign volunteers are currently restricted from polls,"explained Senator Campbell.
"I think there is a very valid concern that last Tuesday's presidential election may have been influenced by erroneous reports made by the national media in predicting state election results based on early returns and exit polls. I'm certain there are both Bush and Gore supporters who feel like these reports may have affected their candidate's national vote as a result," said Campbell.
The Owasso Republican said it was the responsibility of the states to change election laws to reduce the influence of the national media on presidential elections. Campbell said states in the eastern and central time zones could place reasonable delays on the presidential election returns to help prevent projections while voters in the Western United States are still voting.
"Delaying the posting of presidential returns in Oklahoma by two and a half hours will still allow the local media to report Oklahoma's results that evening, while making sure Oklahoma does what it can to help prevent national media reports from influencing voters in the western states," noted Campbell.
Senator Campbell said it would be difficult for Congress to influence the use of exit polls without violating First Amendment rights. However, he said states could restrict how close pollsters are allowed to catch and interview voters coming out of the voting place.
"My proposal does not prevent anyone from conducting an exit poll. They can still conduct exit pools at the voter's residence by phone just like pre-election polls are conducted, or set up in an area away from the polling place. But I do believe this restriction will help delay the taking and compiling of accurate exit-polls, and therefore, will help delay the reporting of exit-poll results to the national media."
Senator Campbell stated that if enough eastern and central states adopted these proposals, it would be difficult for the national media to obtain and report early election and exit poll results.
"The bottom line is to help prevent national media reports from influencing presidential elections in the future. Hopefully, other states will follow Oklahoma's lead and enact election law reforms for that reason," said Campbell.